Djokovic to play Raonic in Paris Masters final
Top seed and defending champion Djokovic routed a weary Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-2, 6-3 in just 62 minutes, while seventh seed Raonic edged Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 in a clash that had looked destined for a deciding tie-break.
The two finalists on Sunday have played each other three times previously with Djokovic winning all three, the last occasion being a straight sets win in the quarter-finals of the French Open in June.
Djokovic, a two-time former champion in Paris, gained sweet revenge over Nishikori for the stunning four-sets loss to the Japanese speedster in the US Open semi-finals in September.
But even he must have been surprised at just how easy it was as he enjoyed one-way traffic all the way apart from a brief spark of resistance from Nishikori halfway through the second set when he achieved his only break of serve.
But the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam singles final at least had some genuine excuses to offer up having finished his 2 hour 43 minutes quarter-final tie against David Ferrer after midnight on Friday.
“It was a great match,” Djokovic said of his form against Nishikori.
“I haven’t dropped a set getting into the finals. I definitely feel fresh and motivated to play well tomorrow. “We could see Kei wasn’t serving at his best, maybe he was fatigued from finishing late last night.
“Regardless, I played well and concentrated on what I needed to do. I served exceptionally well in the important moments and it’s something that encourages me for tomorrow.”
If Djokovic will be gunning for his 20th Masters Series title on Sunday, 23-year-old Raonic will be playing in just his second final at that level, having lost in straight sets to Rafael Nadal on home soil at Montreal in September, 2013.
For Berdych the defeat meant the Czech’s hopes of winning the Paris title for the second time after 2005 went begging. To date that is his only Masters Series title having lost in two finals since then.
Both men, however, were already assured of playing in the ATP World Tour Finals in London in just nine days time after their quarter-final wins on Friday.
There, in what will be the finale to the ATP season, they will join Djokovic, Nishikori, Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray and Marin Cilic.
“It’s amazing, all the things that are happening,” said 23-year-old Raonic.
“The final tomorrow, it’s just about really buckling down, hoping to play another great match, and making the most of the opportunity ahead.
“I know the challenge that will be in front of me, and I’m going to have to play very good tennis. I feel like I’m ready for that.”
With home heroes Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils already eliminated and crowd favourite Federer sent packing on Friday by Raonic, the atmosphere was distinctly subdued inside the Bercy Indoor Arena for the first of the semi-finals.
As expected the serving was ferocious from two of the tallest players in the sport at 1.96m for the Canadian and 1.90 for the Czech.
Raonic was the first to strike with a break of serve in the fourth game, getting the better of Berdych in a punishing 25-shot rally to take a 3-1 lead.
That was enough to ensure him a one set advantage with Berdych failing to muster a single break point against the Canadian.
The second set, however, saw Raonic suffer a lapse of concentration in the second game. A double fault gave Berdych his first two break points and he converted the second of these when Raonic netted a defensive backhand slice.
Once again the single early break of serve proved to be crucial with Berdych having little difficulty in holding onto his own serve after that.
The decider was totally dominated by serve with the first 11 games providing not a single break point and a tie-break looking inevitable.
But all that changed in the 12th game when a rash of errors from an edgy Berdych brought up match point for Raonic and the Canadian clinched victory with a big forehand which drew a netted backhand from the Czech who smashed his racquet off the ground in frustration.
After calming down, Berdych had words of praise for the man he had just lost to.
“I think it’s really a guy that we all need to watch for in the future. He’s just slowly proving that he’s going to be really a tough player with all the weapons that he has,” he said. -AFP